After a short delay caused by a big wind shift, racing in the Semi Final Repechage of the Louis Vuitton Cup began in light winds on the Hauraki Gulf.
It was a beautiful afternoon for racing, with light, shifty conditions challenging the afterguards on both boats.
OneWorld helmsman James Spithill did a nice job on the pre-start, and early in the race, the OneWorld Challenge blue boat twice crossed ahead of the sleek, black Oracle BMW Racing.
But Cameron Dunn, high up the Oracle BMW mast looking for wind, called for his team to cross to the left side of the race course, if given the opportunity. On the second cross, OneWorld let USA-76 switch sides, and the Oracle BMW crew made a nice gain on the left, taking the lead, and sailing in front from there to the finish.
Although OneWorld closed the gap ahead of the final run, Oracle BMW Racing skipper Chris Dickson held his nerve and streaked away for the win.
OneWorld is in a difficult spot now, already one point down starting the series due to an earlier Arbitration Panel penalty. Oracle BMW Racing has to win three more races to win the series, while OneWorld needs five victories.
The winner of the Semi Final Repechage advances to face Alinghi in the Louis Vuitton Cup Final, with race one scheduled for the 10th of January. The loser of the Repechage is eliminated from further competition.
LOUIS VUITTON CUP SEMI FINAL REPECHAGE
USA-76 BEAT ONEWORLD (USA-67) - DELTA 04:08
Oracle BMW Racing leads OneWorld in the best of seven Repechage 1 to (-1)"
"Following the America's Cup Arbitration Panel decision of 9th December 2002, OneWorld Challenge has had one point deducted from its score.
This race was much closer than the final delta would indicate.
Both boats badly wanted the left hand side at the start line in the light northerly winds that stayed below ten knots for the whole race. A well judged final run to the line gave an advantage to OneWorld steered by James Spithill and forced Chris Dickson's Oracle BMW Racing to tack off to the right, seconds after the gun. The first shift was to the left and OneWorld grabbed the lead, initially protecting the left and slowly starting to extend. On the second cross, OneWorld elected to switch sides holding on to a short lived lift on port tack. In the process, they crucially gave up the left side of the course. Dickson helmed USA-76 for the first beat and unhesitatingly took the black boat to the left making a vital gain and stealing into the lead. Dickson and Co. gained further when they were able to anticipate a further left-hander to hit a brilliant port tack lay-line to round the first mark 49-seconds ahead.
Downwind, the speeds were very close, with Oracle BMW covering Peter Gilmour's OneWorld team on every move. On the second beat Dickson's crew matched OneWorld tack for tack all the way up the middle of the course completing no less than 29 tacks. Tacticians on both boats recognised the lane of extra wind in the middle of the course, created by the Tiritiri Channel and worked hard to use it to advantage. On the final beat, OneWorld made a great gain after opting for a new sail and working the left side of the middle of the course and came within a hair's breath of rolling USA-76 on the approach to the final mark. Peter Holmberg at the helm of the black boat opted to slowly luff the OneWorld and was able to bear away and lead around the mark, electing for a bear-away set. OneWorld rounded straight into a gybe but was unable to sustain its fight back, after the wind died on its side of the track. Oracle BMW Racing held a better wind lane all the way down the run and won by a flattering margin, after rounding the last mark just ten seconds ahead.